Tag Archives: Dell

How Dell Generated $3 million in Sales Using Twitter

Dell Outlet on TwitterThere was an exciting announcement recently from the folks at Dell that the company has surpassed $3 million in sales as a result of promotions offered via the @DellOutlet Twitter account. While many will likely tout this as proof of “social media ROI,” there’s a lot more to the story.

Here’s what I think Dell did to generate that type of revenue. If your company can mimic this model, you’ll probably be able to make your first million using Twitter as well:

FAIL
Years before any other company had to consider the implications of ignoring customers online, Jeff Jarvis and an army of unsatisfied Dell users coined the term, “Dell Hell,” forcing the company to listen, even if they weren’t ready.

FAIL AGAIN
When Dell finally launched its first blog in July 2006, which was titled One2One, the company immediately changed its name to Direct2Dell due to the existence of a certain pornography site bearing the same name. A minor embarrassment, but one that was easily overlooked. Dell was at last talking with its customers.

FAIL BIGGER
When the Consumerist published a post from a former Dell sales associate, the company responded with a cease and desist letter from its legal department. This generated even more negative attention for their social media efforts. Only days later did the company respond by using its blog.

FAIL EVERYWHERE
Remember Second Life? It was the Twitter of 2007. Dell launched an island and tried selling PCs via the virtual world interface. While the island had some exciting features, it was often vacant and likely never became the revenue source some expected. However, the Island still exists and the Dell team (led by the amazing Laura Thomas) continues to actively participate in the community by hosting a variety of events for Second Life residents and Dell customers. The company learned how the Second Life community wanted to Dell to participate and the company adapted better than most.

I’m being dramatic by using the word ‘failure’ to describe some of its early forays into social media. Dell tried a lot of different tactics to find which ones resonated with their audience. Sometimes the results of the experiments with community building might not have yielded the expected results. But these lessons were valuable learning opportunities for the company (as well as for the rest of us) to better understand the model for two way conversations between companies and its constituencies.

From these lessons, Dell was able to better prepare for the social media engagement their customers demanded. Let’s look at some of the things they’ve done very well:

DEDICATE RESOURCES
Richard Binhammer, Lionel Menchaca and (formerly) Bob Pearson are probably the most public facing of Dell’s social media team, but the company has more than 30 employees dedicated to its online community customer service team. And it’s not just any people, it’s the right people. People empowered to respond on behalf of the company, people authorized to help.

CREATE A FORUM FOR CONVERSATIONS
Dell was the first large company to implement the SalesForce IdeaStorm offering that allowed customers to propose new ideas to the company that were then voted on by visitors to the site. The best ideas rose to the top and were shared with management. Starbucks followed suit with My Starbucks Idea and the two companies are often cited in social media circles for their willingness to open up direct lines of communications with their customers.

SEGMENT CUSTOMERS AND SPEAK WITH THEM
Gamers, women, small business owners. Dell listened to the conversations happening online and created customer experiences to meet their needs. Great examples of this include the Green community and the Gaming community.

CREATE A HEADQUARTERS WITH MANY BRANCHES
There are 33 corporate Twitter accounts (not to mention countless awesome employee accounts), three Flickr photostreams, 433 YouTube videos, 22 Facebook Groups, 12 Blogs, eight Forums, 18 public wikis, and of course, IdeaStorm. They have a community landing page featured prominently on the Dell site and accounts that are moderated by Dell employees on multiple social media platforms as well.

MEASURE SUCCESS
One of the lessons I’ve learned from Dell’s efforts is that revenue is the old model for a campaign’s success, and it really doesn’t translate well online. People don’t want to be sold to when they’re in a social environment. The best campaigns seem to support customer service, relationship building (between customers, not just between the customer and the brand) and knowledge exchange. Make sure that you’re looking at the appropriate metrics, especially when you’re starting out. These will change over time as you see what works.

CONCLUSION
The $3 million in Twitter revenue was not achieved just by setting up an account and “following” potential customers. It was part of a strategy rolled out over several years that continues to evolve with the tools and the needs of the company’s community. Relationships take time to build. Your brand will make mistakes. What’s important is that you keep trying to find the right fit, that you listen to your customers, and that you give your customers the experience and attention they deserve. In the end, it literally pays off.

Have you learned any lessons from Dell’s experiences? What’s an example of a change you made based on your participation in an online social community?

CHALLENGE: 2009 Social Media Case Studies

dolphin and cow

If you attended any social media webinar, seminar, conference, panel or similar session in the last 12 months, the case studies referenced by the speakers to showcase the value of social media likely included Dell, Blend-Tec, Starbucks and/or Comcast.

And you probably heard them referenced multiple times by multiple people. The problem was that the social media professionals (call them consultants, gurus, experts, whatever) would take the microphone and share the same four or five stories to illustrate successful examples of  corporate social media work. It was the same redundant thing every time.

I’m just as guilty as everyone else. Those case studies were standards in my deck over the last year and honestly, they were fantastic for introducing the possibilities of social media to an audience largely unfamiliar with the platforms and skeptical of their relevance. I might still use them from time to time with people new to the subject. But really, it’s time to move on.

If you’re still unfamiliar with these case studies, there is ample reference material online that I’ll link to here:

GOOD NEWS

It worked! The hundreds of hours spent evangelizing the benefits of social media combined with the crappiness of the current economy transformed words to action. Many brands have launched blogs, signed up for Twitter and established Facebook Fan pages. Often these case studies helped them to do it.

BAD NEWS

Many still don’t get it. It’s not enough to just set up a social media account and check it off the list. There’s still a lack of strategy behind many of these engagements, and part of the blame falls on how it’s presented (while the other part is management bureaucracy, budgets and a whole lot of other factors beyond our control). As trusted advisors, it’s important we illustrate the benefits of a solid social media strategy by using examples from a diverse set of industries.

OUR JOB

If you are someone who is fortunate enough to have a speaking gig or two lined up in 2009 , I hope you’ll come armed with some new case studies. It would be very impressive if they were case studies from projects you actually worked on. At the very least, conduct a bit of original research so that your version of the case study has a nugget or two that we haven’t heard a thousand times before. We don’t want to hear only about companies that are doing a great job, but those that struggled out of the gate as well. We don’t want only big companies, but also small businesses and players in the B2B space.

You can start by checking out this wiki by Peter Kim that is updated with the latest and greatest examples of corporate social media.

Of course, I’m going to do the same. The gauntlet has been thrown. Bring it.

Photo credit: Tidewater_Muse

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Best Posts of the Week

Thought I’d share a couple of interesting and useful posts I’ve read this week:

Enjoy. And if you have any feedback, please leave them for the bloggers at the end of their posts. Bloggers love feedback!